George J. Tsunis, Esq. Honored at the 31st Annual Hellenic Lawyers Association Gala
On November 1st, 2019, the Hellenic Lawyers Association (HLA) held its 31st Annual Dinner Gala at the Pierre Hotel, in NYC. This year’s honoree was George J. Tsunis, Esq., Founder, Chairman and CEO of Chartwell Hotels, Chairman of the Battery Park City Authority and Chairman of the Board of Nassau University Medical Center.
The evening’s program began with HLA President, Chrisanthy N. Zapantis-Melis, Esq., inviting the U.S. Marine Corps Color Guard for the presentation of colors, followed by the U.S. National Anthem sung passionately by American Tenor Christopher Macchio, and the Greek National Anthem sung in unison by the Gala’s attendees.
Archbishop Elpidophoros gave the opening prayer and addressed the audience, speaking on the significant role attorneys have played in society during biblical times and in our present day. The Gala included a scholarship presentation, an awards presentation, formal dinner, traditional Greek dancing, and a silent auction.
The HLA was honored to have U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (New Jersey), a long-time philhellene introduce his friend, and honoree George Tsunis. He spoke to his accomplishments as “having started out as the son of Greek immigrants with a father working in a restaurant. He became a lawyer and served on the Senate Banking Committee as a staffer. He started one of the most significant hospitality chains on the east coast, and at the end of the day is now designing the future of Battery Park and a lot of NYC, and that speaks volumes of who George is, in addition to this philanthropic work.”
George Tsunis, the son of James and Eleni Tsunis, received his BA from NYU, and a JD from St. John’s University School of Law. Mr. Tsunis is an attorney, real estate developer, and public policy advisor, with an interest in economic and foreign affairs. He is involved in numerous philanthropic endeavors and serves on many Boards, notably the Battery Park City Authority, a public benefit corporation that oversees Battery Park City, a 92-acre planned development on Manhattan’s lower west side. Additionally, Mr. Tsunis is Director of the New York Convention Center’s (Jacob Javits Center) Operating Committee and Director of the New York Convention Center’s Development Committee.
Mr. Tsunis was a long-time member of the Archdiocesan Council of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and is a member of both the Faith and Leadership 100 Endowments. He is also a member of the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the highest ecclesiastical honor that can be bestowed upon a layman by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and also served on its National Council.
In honor of his parents, Mr. Tsunis established the George and Olga Tsunis Fellowship for Cancer Prevention at Stony Brook University Hospital and various scholarships and endowments at universities in the tri-state area.
“Mr. Tsunis’ illustrious contributions to the legal profession, in business, public service, and philanthropy, made him the perfect candidate to receive this year’s Hellenic Lawyers Association Distinguished Service Award,” said President, Ms. Zapantis-Melis. “We are thankful that Mr. Tsunis became the evening’s Grand Benefactor, pledged support for the scholarship recipients, and graciously offered to play an integral role in the HLA’s future,” added Ms. Zapantis-Melis. “I am so very honored to serve as President of this Organization, and am proud that with the support of our Board, Members, and Sponsors, this year’s Gala has been exceptionally successful on all levels.”
Several prominent members of the Greek-American community and public officials were present including the Consul General of Greece in NY Dr. Konstantinos Koutras, the Consul General of Cyprus in NY Alexis Phedonos-Vadet, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, Honorable Nicholas G. Garaufis of the U.S. District Court Eastern District, Honorable Catherine Rizzo, Honorable Helen Voutsinas, Honorable Michael , Honorable John C.V. Katsanos, Honorable Maria Ressos, NYS Senator Andrew Gounardes, NYS Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, and NYS Assemblymember Aravella Simotas.
One of the HLA’s goals is to operate in the spirit of philanthropy by awarding scholarships to deserving law students. Ms. Zapantis-Melis enthusiastically addressed the recipients, telling them that “The HLA will endeavor to assist in your pursuit of success, and we wish you a bright future!” The scholarships were presented by John Zervopoulos, Esq. and Christina Gotsis, Esq. who additionally pledged support and encouragement to the law students. This year’s recipients were: George Alissandratos (St. John’s University School of Law), Nicolette Arapis (Penn State Law), Nicolette Argyropoulos (St. John’s University School of Law), Lefteri Christodulelis (Columbia Law School), Ekaterina Daphne Lambadariou (Columbia Law School), Maria Lathouris (Fordham University School of Law), Eleni Lazarides (New York School of Law), and Teddy Roukas (Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University).
Asked by NEO what this honor from HLA means to him, Goerge Tsunis replied that he was “Humbled. Absolutely humbled. My parents like many others came here a generation ago. They fled poverty. They fled war. They came to this country in search of a better life. They were so proud I became an attorney. My mother always says I was able to educate all three of my children. What a powerful degree that of a lawyer is – to be a skillful, artful, powerful advocate for change, for justice, and in the pursuit of justice. These are things that I learned not only as an American of Hellenic descent at my parents’ table, but also things that were taught to me in law school, and have made me appreciate that all of us need to continue to work together to right that historic wrong. For me, my advocacy has always been Cyprus and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
The Hellenic Lawyers Association was founded with the mission of connecting lawyers of Greek descent through networking and professional development opportunities. To date, they have over 800 members in the community including: judges, attorneys, and law students. The HLA sponsors several Continuing Legal Education seminars throughout the year. The organization also sponsors or participates in various events throughout the year, beginning in January with the Traditional Cutting of the Vasilopita at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, followed by the HLA Kick-off Party, and participation in the Greek Independence Day Parade on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Each spring, the HLA honors distinguished members of the judiciary at the HLA Judiciary Night. The HLA wraps up the year hosting a Christmas Party.
One of the HLA’s goals is to broaden outreach and become the ultimate resource for our community when it is in need of legal assistance. The HLA proudly supports and co-sponsors events with other Hellenic professional organizations which provide professionals in the Greek-American community a way to come together and network. Additional information and Membership applications are available online at hlany.org.